• Over 60% of Africa’s population is under 25, highlighting the need to address youth mental health
  • The study aims to identify risk factors and resilience-building strategies for NEET youths
  • Collaboration between government, NGOs, and communities is crucial for effective interventions

From Tony John, Port Harcourt

The Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI) is conducting a study on the prevalence of depression among youths not in education, employment, or training (NEET) aged 18 to 24 in the Niger Delta region. This non-governmental organisation (NGO) is collaborating with local and international academics and institutions to understand the challenges these young people face and propose solutions.

Lead researcher Professor Linda Theron from the University of Pretoria and Nigeria focal lead Dr Zainab Mai-Borun from the University of Leicester aim to identify factors that could mitigate the risk of depression among these youths.

Speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, MHEI Founder and President, Mr Zion Ameh Abba, highlighted the study’s importance, given that over 60% of Africa’s population is under 25. He stressed the crucial role young people play in driving economic activity and sustainable development.

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“We are gathered here today to shed light on a critical issue affecting African youths in the Niger Delta region in Niger and South Africa,” stated Abba. “The prevalence of depression among those who find themselves not in education, employment or training, commonly referred to as NEET, is critical and demands urgent attention.”

The study, involving 600 youths from Rivers and Bayelsa States in Nigeria and another 1,000 in South Africa, employs a mixed-methods approach, combining surveys with interviews and focus group discussions.

Abba believes the findings will underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions to address mental health disparities among this demographic. The study also seeks to identify resilience-building factors that positively impact NEET youths’ mental well-being.

He advocates for the full implementation of the Mental Health Act 2021 across the Niger Delta and Nigeria. Abba called for collaboration and support from government health institutions, media outlets, NGOs, youth councils, traditional and religious leaders, and community-based organisations throughout the study and beyond.

“We are specifically calling for collaborations from government health institutions,” Abba emphasised.

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